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Hello Sakura! Cherry Blossoms Calling...

11 mins. read

Think of the enchanting Cherry Blossoms and the first thing that comes to our mind is the Land of the Rising Sun – Japan. Japan tops the list of travellers who aspire to take in the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle of blooming cherry trees. However, a lesser known fact is, the city of Macon, in Georgia, USA is home to some 300,000 cherry trees – more than anywhere else in the world. The story of how cherry trees made their way into America is quite an interesting one. In the year 1910, Japan sent some Cherry saplings to the USA, as a token of friendship and cordial relations between the two countries. However, along with the cherries, what also made their way into the USA were mosquitoes and the consequent diseases. The US government therefore decided to burn down the cherry trees, much against the will of the locals. Yet again in the year 1912, Japan sent some 3,000 cherry saplings to Washington and Americans fell in love with these pretty flowers, so much so, that today, the DC Cherry Blossom Festival is America’s favourite.

Mogambo Khush Hua!

I was in the coach, interacting with our guests travelling on the Cherry Blossom Women’s Special and Seniors’ Special tours. I was curious to know whether everyone in the group was visiting Japan for the very first time or anyone of them had already been before. One gentleman in the group raised his hand and to my pleasant surprise he was our loyal guest, Mr. Prakashji Divakar. It’s incredible but true, over last five years, Mr. Divakar has travelled on Veena World’s twenty four tours. In fact, this was his second tour to Japan. His first time was Japan and China together, this time, especially for the Cherry Blossoms and he had even planned his third trip in the year to follow, and that was going to be Japan Alpine Route Special. This Japanese Hat-trick of Mr. Divakar popped the eyes out of our head. His passion for travel makes him traverse the globe and know what? This year, he’ll be off to Hawaii with Mexico and also Eastern Europe, visiting Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine. We have nicknamed Mr. Prakashji Divakar as Mr. Mogambo, thanks to his iconic laughter. It’s a ritual that our Mogambo will send us two letters after he returns from his tours. Of these, one is a brief one, wherein he writes ‘Mogambo Khush Hua’, thus acknowledging the success of the tour, while the other letter is an email, almost an exhaustive travel blog giving minutest details of the tour. Our Mogambo is not only our loyal guest, but also one of our valuable critics, letting us know of our shortfalls and the areas in which we can improve. We are indeed fortunate to be having guests like him and are truly grateful to all our guests, who have placed their trust in Veena World in our initial years.

Japan - A world apart

While on one hand Japan is an expensive destination the dilemma for the travellers is that, just once to Japan is not enough. Probably, this’s the reason why Japan had remained at the bottom of our guests’ bucket list over years. For years, we were only seeing Japan through the eyes of some great authors, one of them being P. L. Deshpande – who has penned down his Japan memoirs in his popular travelogue-‘Purvaranga’. When I actually visited Japan for the very first time, it was indeed a world apart for me. Japan had actually remained isolated from the world until the 18th century. It was only in the mid-18th century that Japan eventually opened its doors for foreigners. It adopted and learnt all that was good from the west and made its progress by leaps and bounds in industrialization and military. Today, as we all know, Japan is the last word when it comes to technology. It’s here that ultra-modernism and age-old traditions & wisdom perfectly blend together. Another fact about Japan is that it’s a highly populated nation with people in huge numbers visible everywhere. And it’s fair enough; Japan’s population is almost half of the population of the United States, while its land area is even lesser than that of California. Moreover, Japan is an island country – total 6,000 of them, of which 400 yet remain uninhabited. Resultantly, the houses are quite small, with lesser furniture and daytime living rooms turning into bedrooms in the night.

Big surprise in small packets

Generally, the houses and hotels in Japan have beds folded into the walls. There’s one interesting anecdote. Once Sudhir had visited a small Japanese village. At the hotel, to his much surprise, as he unlocked the door, he stepped into a cute tiny room with wood panelled flooring. The windows were overlooking beautiful trees outside. The only furniture in the room were two mats and a sitting coffee table. The bed was missing and so was the shower. However, there was a commode. When Sudhir inquired with the hotel manager, he learnt that the housekeeping staff would make the bed in his room and which they did by unfolding the bed that was folded into the wall. For bathing, Sudhir was supposed to use the common spa. Later in the evening, when the housekeeping staff made the bed, just a thick bed-sheet was spread over it without any mattress. Sudhir readily accepted this ‘Simple Living, High Thinking’ philosophy of the Japanese. But even today, when our team is on a recce of hotels in Japan, Sudhir advises them to first check for bed-mattress-toilet-bathroom in the rooms. Of course, this was Sudhir’s one of a kind experience in that village. Rest assured, the hotels we stay in on our tours are nice and fully equipped with spacious rooms.

In love with Japan

It’s so true, we can’t get enough of Japan in just one trip. It definitely calls for a second time... or rather more. I have taken four-five trips myself. Our Neil is head over heels in love with this wonder country. Thrice in two years! Isn’t that a feat?! Once he just toured, the second time he skied and the third time he took along his younger brother-Raj. He’s to set out in April again as Cherry Blossoms are on his list next. Now, this isn’t a rocket science that next on Neil’s list would be Japan Autumn Colours and Japan Alpine Route. Neil, a complete foodie is absolutely in love with the Japanese Cuisine. He believes, the food available here is the purest and the freshest in the world.

Oh-so-affordable Japan with Veena World

With the support of the airlines and our partners, Veena World could make Japan affordable for its guests. Since past three years, thousands of guests have fulfilled their long time Japan dream with Veena World. We are proud of the fact that Veena World has a lion’s share in diverting the Indian tourist traffic towards Japan. Even the airlines and tourism boards have acknowledged it, time and again. What’s most important is that the efforts and hard work of our team have paid off and we could bring Japan within the reach of our guests.

Options galore

These days, the Cherry Blossom special Japan tours are selling like hot cakes at Veena World, of course along with Europe & America, and the destinations in the Himalayas.Now one thousand guests are setting off with Veena World to witness this spectacular sight. Guests have cherry-picked the tour best suited to them from options galore – 6 Day most popular Japan Jewels, 9 Day Japan Korea, 12 Day Japan China, 8 Day Japan with Yuzawa and Hakone and the 7 Day South Korea with Jeju Island. There’s Women’s Special & Seniors’ Special too. 21 departures are already sold out. So, you really need to hurry up! Exams dates clashing? No worries, you can still make it with Japan Jewels, Japan Alpine Route or the 15 Day Japan Korea Taiwan tours in May. So be an early bird before it’s late!

Sakura
The cherry flower is Japan’s national flower – known as ‘Sakura’ in Japanese. The expected bloom period in Japan is announced by the national channel annually. At popular destinations like Tokyo & Osaka, the cherries bloom around the end of March and the beginning of April. Marking the onset of spring, the 15 to 20 day Sakura fills the air with a fresh new life. Encapsulating ‘hope’ and ‘new beginning’, Sakura also symbolizes the impermanence of life, joy and sorrow. ‘Hanami’ – the picnics under the cherry trees, are quite popular with the locals. The fortnight of cherry blossom is just another reason for celebrating life – quite literally! Picnicking big time in the cherry orchards is its manifestation. The picnics in the night, known as – ‘Yozakura’ or ‘Night Sakura’ are lit up by hanging lanterns on to the trees. Did you know, there are two hundred different varieties of cherry blossoms! ‘Somei Yoshino’ is pale-pink coloured, five-petal single flower. Cherry blossoms in the hilly regions are known as ‘Yamazakura’. ‘Shidarezakura’ meaning weeping cherry are the blossoms that bloom on the drooping branches of the tress. While ‘Kwanzan’ is the forty-fifty petal dark pink coloured Cherry blossom, ‘Ukon’, meaning turmeric in Japanese, is a turmeric-coloured flower.

 

The cherry on the cake

When Sakura sways with the wind all around us, it seems as if the flowers are dancing the divine dance. The experience of visiting this land dressed in pink & white, just cannot be put into words. In Sakura, while the cherry blossoms make their way into our hearts, they even do so through our stomach and other sensory organs. It’s that special time of the year, when we find the Sakura cake, clothes designed on the theme of Sakura, Sakura paintings, film animations, tattoos, drinks, perfumes and even the Cherry Blossom burgers by McDonald’s in Japan.

It’s indeed very difficult to capture and express the essence of Cherry Blossoms in words. It goes without saying that Japan has to find its place on your travel bucket list; and if it’s during the Cherry Blossoms, it’s truly the cherry on the cake, quite literally! J

February 19, 2019

Author

Veena Patil
Veena Patil

‘Exchange a coin and you make no difference but exchange a thought and you can change the world.’ Hi! I’m Veena Patil... Fortunate enough to have answered my calling some 40+ years ago and content enough to be in this business of delivering happiness almost all my life. Tourism indeed moulds you into a minimalist... Memories are probably our only possession. And memories are all about sharing experiences, ideas and thoughts. Life is simple, but it becomes easy when we share. Places and people are two things that interest me the most. While places have taken care of themselves, here are my articles through which I can share some interesting stories I live and love on a daily basis with all you wonderful people out there. I hope you enjoy the journey... Let’s go, celebrate life!

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